As a single mother of two, I have chosen to work as a home-based medical transcriptionist. I have been in this kind of job for 17 years now, working in rotational shifts.
While being awake at night is a very unpleasant and difficult experience, it is the daytime symptoms which most impact on the lives of those suffering with insomnia. — John Cline Ph.D.
I have been happy and thankful for this job as it allowed me to work from home and be a hands-on mom, taking care of my kids’ needs and mine as well. At first, I found it hard to stay awake eight hours straight during nighttime, but as time went by, I got used to it. I can even work two shifts straight. I never realized that it could in the long term be a threat to having a healthy body and mind.
Our ancestors used to rely on the sun on lighting and mostly spent their evenings in darkness. Modern age brings about the discovery of artificial light that provides us with better lighting especially during the night.
I’ve been tossing and turning almost every night. Falling asleep is a struggle, and waking up in the wee hours of the morning makes me feel listless the whole day. This change in my routine makes me worry because I always feel tired, had become unproductive, and worse, it is starting to affect my relationship.
We Used To Share One Bed
As a couple, it is expected that you share a bed with your partner. It’s a beautiful feeling finding comfort sleeping alongside each other, but what if your partner could no longer stand the uneasy you, who keeps on moving and turning? What if he starts complaining about your snoring? Is this the end of your good night’s sleep?
Instead of causing my husband to feel tired too, and unfocused because of disturbed sleeping, my doctor recommended that it would be better to have separate bedrooms. It has become so distressing for me as I feel so alone.
Several experts agree that even though partners may fight over the sheets, the security that people feel from sleeping in the same bed with the person they love has great perks. — John Smith Ph.D.
Unsatisfied Married Life
I love snuggling whenever I hit the bed while telling my stories, everything that happened to my day. But the moment our doctor recommends that we have a separate bed and then the separate bedroom, a lot has changed. We need to do our talk while we are at the dinner table or while watching a movie, which seems less sweet and intimate because, after our conversation, we have to go to our separate beds. But I have to live up to it so as not to disturb my husband with my bad sleeping habits.
My husband sleeps faster and complains less regarding the quality of sleep he has, and I pity him for being very considerate of my sleep problems. I don’t want him to suffer because of me, so I only agree on the setting of sleeping in a separate room with him even though I miss our cuddling and pillow talk.
Make sure your bedroom is a calm space with a comfortable bed. Determine what type of pillows, sheets, and blankets are the most comfortable for you. — Megan MacCutcheon, LPC
Putting An End To The Misery Brought By Insomnia
My doctor recommended various treatments to cure my insomnia
Healthy before-bed habits
I did try some of them but to no avail. Failure to improve the quality of my sleep and feeling alone at night left me in a depressed mood besides having a less intimate moment with my husband.
Sleep deprivation brought by my insomnia caused me to gain weight, become less productive, and start troubles in our relationship. I can’t allow it to go on that way, so I tried all possible ways that could put an end to my misery.
One therapist told me to try re-organizing our bedroom besides meditation, lifestyle change, and practicing healthy habits before I go to bed.
A New Mattress. My tossing and turning plus the snoring awaken my husband that’s why he has to sleep in his own bed. A new mattress that absorbs movement, like the memory foam, can help contain movement on my side of the bed, thus, preventing disturbance in my husband’s sleep.
Keeping The Room Tidy. A cleanroom encourages good rest and sound sleep. For added enchantment, I make sure to spray a scent of lavender before we sleep. Lavender has shown to be useful in helping people fall asleep faster with lesser waking up at night.
Stop Your Snoring. I find it hard to fall asleep, and if I do, I often snore. I was actually unaware at first that I woke my husband up with my loud snoring. It was just when we visited my doctor for my insomnia that I found out. If you’re a snorer, you can try turning to one side to stop your tongue from caving into the back of your throat, blocking the proper flow of air creating the snoring sound. You can also try oral appliances to eliminate the snoring sound or see your doctor to rule out sleep apnea.
When we go to bed too early, odds are we won’t be ready to fall asleep. Most likely we’ll just have more time to lie in bed awake, feeling anxious and stressed, and reinforcing bed as a place of anxiety and unrest. — Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D.
Limit Your Bedroom Activity To Sleep And Sex. Buzzing sounds of phones are very annoying and often disrupts sleep. Also, the blue light from laptops, tablets, and phones is said to interrupt circadian rhythm, and falling back to sleep can be a struggle. If you want to bring back intimacy in your bedroom, it’s just but proper to turn off your gadgets and limit your bedroom activity to stuff that will make you and your partner happier and well-rested.
Sleep issue should be addressed as a serious problem. It is not just threatening your health but your relationship as well. Don’t allow your insomnia and snoring to cause you and your partner troubles right in your own bedroom because no one wants to wake up looking at a grumpy partner early in the morning. Snoring and insomnia can be treated medically or in a more natural way like meditation, lifestyle changes, healthy before-bedtime habits, and a bit of re-organization or restyling in your bedroom.
Follow these tips, and I hope you and your partner get a better night of good sex and undisturbed sleep!
When you develop insomnia, one of the issues is when you go to bed and try to get to sleep, but instead, your mind starts to race, running thoughts up to the point that it causes you to feel sleep-deprived. If this happens over time, your mind starts to associate the bed with a space to think and not a place to sleep. And so there is mental conditioning in which your mind is programmed into not going to sleep because your mind believes that the bed is a place to think.
Increased arousal, often related to fear of not sleeping or being unable to function effectively during the day, prevents the usual functioning of brain systems which initiate and maintain sleep. — John Cline Ph.D.
Non-traditional work hours are becoming more prevalent in a more globalized economy. As night shifts or graveyard shifts quickly become the workplace norms, it can be that you lack more than just time apart from social life or rays of sunshine.
Shift Work Sleep Disorder is a condition experienced by night shifters. As per expert Tina Waters, MD, she mentioned that people who work the “third shift” will have issues with their body’s cardiac rhythms. It affects the normal pulsing since the person is awake during the day because of its internal body clock. This is the traditional rhythm of the body. Even if the person is fatigued or super tired at day, he will not go to sleep until it’s time to sleep at night. His senses will keep him awake, which is not healthy when chronic.
Shift work refers to any job that falls outside of a more “traditional” nine to five work schedule, affecting most people who start work before 6:30 a.m. or after 4:30 p.m. — Shelby Harris Psy.D.
This Disorder Is Very Dangerous To One’s Health.
As a preface, not all night shifters will develop shift work sleep disorder. However, if you find yourself having difficulty sleeping, you may want to consult your doctor. He will run some tests to make sure that you’re not affected by any other sleeping disorders like sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
People who lack sleep and who do it often will suffer from dangerous health problems. It should be addressed as early as possible since this prolonged habit can develop into more severe illnesses. Gastrointestinal and metabolic disorders like diabetes can emerge from lack of sleep. In more severe cases, it can even develop into heart disease. One example of how extreme this can get was on a study done with night shift nurses are subjects. In the end, it was ruled that because of their shift work sleep disorder, these nurses were prone to cancer and sterility.
There Are Ways To Prevent Shift Work Sleep Disorder.
For nurses, as stated in the example, it is not an option to change their professions just because of the night shift. Call center agents can also have this issue, or security guards and police officers who work at nights. But not all of them will have this disorder. Some will be able to cope and have a good night’s sleep.
…many nurses go without sleep for 24-hours in order to adjust to their late-night shifts. — Michael J Breus Ph.D.
Keep A Sleep Schedule.
Start a routine for sleep and enforce it. Provide yourself a more conducive environment for sleep (example; keeping the room dark, reducing background noise, or listening to calming sounds, and more). It’s also a good idea to keep a sleep diary to record how many hours of sleep you’ve achieved every night.
Go To Sleep Immediately After Working.
It helps to minimize your exposure to light for at least 30 minutes before sleeping as light is the primary factor that keeps people awake. Make the most of it by going to sleep immediately after work before sunrise.
Drink Lessen Caffeine.
Morning routines may need caffeine, but while working nights, consider reducing your caffeine intake within four hours before your shift ends.
In addition to the common sources of caffeine (e.g., coffee, soda, and energy drinks), we also need to consider hidden sources. — Lauren Woolley, PhD
Establish Some Boundaries.
Inform people what time your sleep hours are and do not entertain them otherwise. Be strict in setting boundaries to leave you alone during sleeping hours to maximize rest.
If these practices can not remedy your sleep disorder, consult your doctor on how to better address your sleep problems. Therapy, medication, or consultations can be provided to help you stave off more severe symptoms.
Lack of sleep can make you moody and cranky for the entire day. Since you did not get enough rest for the previous night, there is a high possibility that you will feel exhausted all throughout the day. You will lose focus on all the activities and tasks that you need to complete. At the same time, it can also result in having strained relationships with the people around you since you are more likely to become impatient. Because of all these things, it is essential for you to get the right amount of sleep every single night.
While adults may not need as many hours of sleep as kids, rest is still important. Yet as we get older, have more free will, and are inundated with modern technologies and daily stressors, we often neglect good sleep habits and can consequently wind up facing things like chronic insomnia, poor health, irritability, lack of concentration, and even impaired judgment from neglecting to give our bodies the sleep they require. — Megan MacCutcheon, LPC
Insomnia can be a by-product of night-shift work due to the demands of having to work during odd hours. A typical case would be like this – a person will operate starting at 11 in the evening, and then gets off at 7 in the morning. This would last for five days a week, and then, they are expected to have a “normal” sleep cycle on the weekends so that they could interact with their friends and family.
Millions of Americans are shift workers, including doctors, nurses, construction workers, police officers, pilots and commercial drivers. — Shelby Harris Psy.D.
What people around them don’t understand is that this cycle of not sleeping at nights can lead to an inconsistent sleep cycle that leaves one feeling tired all the time. The body’s internal clock is unable to make adjustments and cannot adapt to the switching of rest and sleep between night and day activities.
Your body is wired to function during the day and rest at night. This is its normal cycle. And so, if you have shift work, it will be contrary to the natural order of things. Prolonged night shift work can lead to some adverse effects; lack of proper sleep can decrease alertness during waking hours and lead to accidents, reduced efficiency at work, and increase the probability of stress.
In fact, a lot of people’s sleep problems can be attributed to an internal clock that has become out of sync or mismatched with the day-night cycle. — Michael J Breus Ph.D.
Best Practices For Sleep Recovery
Regrettably, night shift work is a mandatory need in most professions, so it would be difficult to avoid. The best one can do to practice some habits that can reduce the adverse effects of shifting hours – here are some examples.
Keep a practical schedule for sleep versus family time and socializing. Find time to sleep that will, in turn, maximize the time you can spend with family and friends. Keep this schedule consistent.
Be strict about your sleep schedule. Keep to a consistent time for sleep and stick with it. Every hour, on the hour, even on weekends or off days.
Plan your activities ahead of time, so they don’t cross your sleep schedule. You may need to find night time options for otherwise day time activities like going to a bank or seeing a 24/7 grocery store.
Try to sleep in one long stretch instead of sleeping sporadically and napping in off-hours.
Maintain a pleasant sleeping environment by minimizing noise disturbances like phones, doorbells, and TVs. You may also consider getting a white-noise machine or using soft ear-plugs.
Keep your room dark by blocking out sunlight or using shades. Exposure to light is the prime factor that signals our bodies to wake, so it’s integral to have precautions to address this. The bright-light machine that’s used for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder can also be helpful for your awake hours.
Environmental disturbances including noisy neighbors, a snoring partner, or a playful pet in bed can make it challenging to catch some Z’s. — Lauren Woolley, PhD
These are just some examples on how to get some good night’s sleep if you work the night shift. It may work for you if your situation or issues is not that extreme. However, for people with a severe case of insomnia, seek out a medical professional’s help for consultation. It can be shift work sleep disorder. With this problem, you might require a sleep therapy program or some medication to help you with your severe sleep problem.
Drinking coffee is probably one of the things that you enjoy doing every day. Having caffeine in your system can make you more productive for a given day. However, there are times when you wish coffee has no effects at all especially if you are trying to get a good sleep. Worry no more since you can still sleep soundly at night without giving up coffee.
It’s best to consult your doctor or physician if you think you have shift work sleep disorder. Your health history would be reviewed, and the doctor may ask questions regarding your symptoms and sleep patterns. He may also use some of these instruments to get an overview of your problem better.
According to U.S. labor statistics, about 20 percent of the workforce, or about 19.7 million U.S. workers, are early risers who begin work between 2:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. — Michael J Breus Ph.D.
The following instruments are:
Sleep Diary. Before seeing your doctor, for at least two weeks, you have to record your sleep everyday pattern. The information gathered will help determine if a disorder causes your issues or not.
Sleepiness Scales. Your doctor will determine if you may be experiencing an extreme level of sleepiness by asking questions regarding the level of drowsiness during periods that you wish to stay awake.
Sleep Studies. You may be asked to undergo a non-invasive examination, a sleep study (Polysomnography), that take note of somebody functions while sleeping, like brain waves, heart rate, oxygen level, etc., if your doctor thinks that there is an underlying sleep disorder for your symptoms. These are conducted overnight in a lab or at home.
Questions Your Doctor Will Ask You If You’re Showing Signs Of Shift Work Sleep Disorder
Your doctor may ask you the following during your consultation about sleep symptoms resulted from your shift schedule:
Detailed symptoms on how long, how frequent, and how these signs interfere with your life
Your work schedule and sleep habits
Any history with other sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, and more
Your doctor will also talk to you and interview you about what you are feeling and experiencing. From there, and all the other tests are done, the medical expert will be able to diagnose if you have a disorder, or not.
It’s essential to follow your doctor’s order if he put you under medication.
Medications may be useless and even make your sleep problem worse if not taken properly, and thus, you should take the proper dosage as prescribed.
Before a doctor put you on medication, they must know your health history, including those medications you’re currently taking. Drugs can have side effects, and it is essential to know about it and record any changes.
It is essential to understand the body still needs enough sleep to function, and those medications do not make up for the absence of sleep.
Thus, even if you are on medication, make sure to also apply the behavioral change for long-term healthy sleep, because these medications are not a long-term solution but somewhat as a temporary approach to help improve your symptoms.
People who have difficulty falling asleep, or remaining asleep for an extended period and as their bodies require may be suffering from shift work sleep disorder. Shift work sleep disorder can be similar to insomnia. The former is directly connected to a person’s employment schedule, while many sources cause the latter. In reality, it is more likely to have difficulty with one’s shift schedule.
Did you have a good night’s sleep during those times wherein you didn’t work night shifts? Since your started working graveyard, did you have difficulty sleeping during the day, and usually end up not sleeping, or chronically lack sleep? If you answered yes to both questions, then, it’s a sure sign that your night shifts cause your sleep issues.
Shift Work Sleep Disorder: Medical Treatments
If you have already tried the non-medical options (example; good sleeping habits, adjusting your sleep setting and schedule, and doing relaxation methods) and yet, symptoms persist, then, your doctor may suggest some medications.
Below are medications that could help you stay awake at work so that you could sleep during the day, which is what you need the most right now.
Alertness: Some prescriptions work by switching on the system that keeps your brain alerts, such as Armodafinil and Modafinil.
Sleeping: Sleep aids, such as, benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, and certain antidepressants to momentarily help a shift worker who needs to sleep during odd hours.
Ask your doctor which one suits you best, and if you have doubts, ask for the side effects of these medications on you.
In addition to non-medical options mentioned above, these options help improve job alertness and regulate your sleep.
A person’s body produces melatonin. It is a natural chemical that makes a person tired. The melatonin level changes throughout the day and night. If at night, you are exposed to light, it disrupts the natural melatonin production, which can result in disturbed sleep and many health-related problems. If you need to alter to an odd schedule, consuming melatonin may help “reset” your body clock.
For your body clock, light is a powerful indicator. It affects your wake/sleep pattern with its alerting effect and gradually shifting your sleep pattern depending on the schedule of light exposure. This help establishes a healthier sleep or wake pattern based on your needs. This is prescribed as a way to help you change your sleep patterns to improve work alertness and productivity, but the extent of light therapy and timing should be appropriately determined.
This is a good source of alertness and productivity during shift. It has been found that caffeine even as low as 200mg improve attentiveness for those who like to be awake during the night. Caffeine consumption after a nap is beneficial, and it remains in your system for hours, so make sure to minimize caffeine intake as your shift ends.
A person needs to sleep at least seven hours each day, straight and nonstop. This is the time when our bodies are recuperating, and sleep restores the balance. If you are not sleeping right because of your shift at work, then, you will have to find a way to sleep during the day without disruption. As to how you will do that, if you are having problems, ask help from a medical professional.